Apple

QR codes for bank transfers

There is this weekly repetitive task I really hate: paying bills. Obviously because I prefer money going in the other direction, but also ’cause it’s so incredibly boring and time-consuming that for every transfer you have to type in the amount, the reference number and often the beneficiary details as well.

ScashingA few weeks ago, the Belgian bank KBC launched an app that allows you to manage your account on your phone. Let’s ignore for a second the fact that their password requirements force you to come up with an unsafe password, and let’s focus on a cool built-in feature called “scashing” instead: you can complete a money transfer between you and someone else using nothing but your phone (iOS or Android). The app makes use of a QR code to present all required data so that the other person can scan it with his own phone, using that same application. That’s all it takes. Really simple and convenient!

Now coming back to my initial sighing. Why can’t they apply that same concept to bills/invoices and print a QR code on each of those containing the data you would normally have to type in yourself. Then it would be just a matter of scanning, confirming, and done! I would love to pay my bills like that!
I can imagine bank managers are having a tough time right now struggling with their self-assembled Ponzi scheme, but I have good hope that in the near future one of them will see the light and eventually launch this idea.

Syncing multiple Google calendars on iPad

Today, when I was trying to have my agenda better organized by splitting it up in several Google calendars, I found out that only one primary calendar got synced with my iPad,  the other ones were ignored. That didn’t seem to make much sense, but after some Google searches it turned out many people encountered the same problem. Luckily there is a workaround, but even though I followed the instructions step by step and went through all the comments, I just couldn’t get it set up. Eventually I figured out that it had something to do with the language. When your browser requests for a page, it always sends along the language your browser has been configured with, in my case Dutch. Apparently the procedure described in the workaround only works when Google detects English. However you can force Google to use another language by passing it through the url, and that’s how I got it set up eventually.

To save you the trouble, this is how it works:

  1. Open Safari on you iPad and browse to http://m.google.com/?hl=en
  2. On that page, look for “Google Apps user? Tap to configure for your domain.” and click it. A dialog will open where you can fill in the domain of your Google Apps. Fill in the domain and press “Go”.
  3. You should now see a green box at the top, containing a “Sync” button. Push it. You might have to login now before you can continue.
  4. If you would not see the “Manage devices” page now listing the iPhone and the iPad, then go to the location bar in your browser, and remove the last part until you’re left with “…/iconfig/”. Now add “?hl=en” to the end, and then push “Go” on your keyboard. This should take you to the page where you can manage the devices.
  5. Select the iPad device, and on the next screen you will be able to select the other calendars you want to sync. Press “save” when done.
  6. That’s it, just wait for a minute, open Calendar on iPad, and you should see all your calendars appear.

Apple MobileMe: first rubbish, then great

Apple MobileMeToday I decided to try out the new MobileMe service of Apple (previously known as .Mac). There were some features that sounded pretty interesting and useful, so time to give it a shot.

The service can be used 60 days for free. After that period it costs $99 or €79. Strange conversion rate that is. With €1 being $1.5 today, €79 equals $120 so I would definitely prefer paying in dollar, however that doesn’t seem to be possible.

Anyhow, I signed up, tried to log in but then: “Invalid member name or password”. Huh? I was sure my account data was correct because I had no problem logging on to the MobileMe service on my MacBook (on the System Preferences panel). A search on the net made clear that many people had the same issue. How can Apple launch a service where it’s not even possible to log on? So my first impression was “rubbish”. Luckily there was a solution to fix the issue, but still, after being online for 2 weeks, how could Apple not have fixed this?

So finally I was able to start using MobileMe and so far I’m quite satisfied with it. Syncing works ok, publishing photos is ridiculously easy and the online interface is pretty slick. Let’s see if I stay that optimistic within a couple of weeks. To be continued.

Plaxo Pulse

Plaxo PulseA few days earlier I talked about Foxmarks to have your bookmarks synchronized across all the computers you use. Well for the same reason I was looking for a similar solution for the contacts in my addressbook. Same story as with the bookmarks: there were already some nice online solutions for this, and with applications like Plaxo or LinkedIn your data was always kept up to date by the contacts themselves, but I like to have that same data offline, preferably integrated in my application of choice.

Now the good thing was that I didn’t have to search for such service. I received an e-mail from the Plaxo team notifying me about their new Plaxo Pulse application that was able to do all the stuff I wanted. Great!
And I must admit, the guys at Plaxo did an amazing job. The most interesting features for me were the fact that I can import your contacts from my LinkedIn profile, and that I can synchronize in a bi-directional way with my mac’s Address Book. Now I have my contact data in my mac updated by the contacts themselves.

Besides the address book, you also get a handy online calendar, and even that you can synchronize with client calendar software like iCal. Just like in iCal or Outlook you can create multiple calendars, and for each calendar you can decide if you want to make it publicly accessible or not.

Another nice feature of the Plaxe Pulse service is that it allows you to have a sort of online business card. It’s always up to date as it is synchronized with my mac’s Address Book and by registering a username you get a short and easy url to link to it. I’ve always hated the printed businesscards as you need to buy like a thousand at once (of which 900 end up as post-it) and every year you have to buy new ones because some phone number or job title has changed.
Now I just print my name and the MyPlaxo url on my business cards so I can use them forever. ;-)

One remark: you might not want to use your openID for registering your Plaxo Pulse account as with your openID you can not use the synchronization plugins in your client software. The Plaxo team was aware of that so that could have been resolved by now.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

My first mac

Apple MacBookToday I became one of the PC-to-Mac switchers. Before 2 years, I would never have considered a Mac, but when in 2006 Apple switched from PowerPC to Intel processors, it started to become interesting. This made it possible to run Windows as an operating system on your mac. You won’t hear me saying that Windows is better than OsX, on the contrary, but there is the fact that as a developer there is software I really need and that is only available for Windows (to name one: Internet Explorer), besides some very expensive licences I have for Windows versions of certain software.
So all of a sudden that was not an issue anymore.

Then OsX Leopard was released, with a stable Bootcamp built-in, and around the same time VMWare came out with their new Fusion. Now you could run both OsX and Windows at the same time. I couldn’t wish for more so I went out to buy my first Mac: a MacBook Pro 15″ 2.4GHz

That it looks awesome, no discussion about that, but the performance and the screen quality is great as well. Plus, it’s so complete: support for all the wireless protocols (even 802.11n), the built-in iSight camera, DVI-output, magnetic power connector (great invention), bluetooth, gigabit ethernet, lightened keyboard. In other words, totally prepared for the future. And the preinstalled software is actually all you need to manage all your files, documents, mails, addressbooks, … To find the Windows equivalent you spend 2 weeks searching and installing and comparing before you find the program that fullfills your needs.

Then it was time to install Windows next to OsX using Bootcamp. The whole installation process was a piece of cake. I encountered only one issue, but that was more likely being caused by a damaged install disc.
After that I installed VMWare Fusion, which would allow me to boot Windows in OsX. The installation was short and easy and the whole virtual OS environment works like a charm. With Spaces you can even switch from fullscreen OsX to fullscreen Windows with just a push of a button. The performance of the virtual OS is, as to be expected, worse than if you would boot straight into Windows, but for me it is definitely acceptable for the things I want to do with it. It takes a little time to get used to the Mac keyboard layout in a Windows environment, but those things are very well documented in the Fusion help files.
One thing I would do different if I would do it all over again, is to format the Windows partition in FAT32 rather than NTFS. NTFS is actually a better formatting structure, but when using FAT32 you can access files on the Windows partition from within OsX without using the VMWare software.

So far, nothing but positive comments on my latest investment, and looking forward to when the iPhone is going to be released over here :-)

UPDATE:
If you’re planning to do some serious programming on the MacBook you should definitely use an external keyboard or you will end up using 3-key-combinations for typing some of the most used characters. Actually, this is the case with all Apple keyboards. Strange.

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